The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) suggests that early childhood educators make ethical, appropriate, valid, and reliable assessment a central part of all early childhood programs. To best assess young children’s strengths, progress, and needs, use assessment methods that are developmentally appropriate, culturally and linguistically responsive, tied to children’s daily activities, supported by professional development, inclusive of families, and connected to specific, beneficial purposes. The purposes of doing assessment are:

  1. making sound decisions about teaching and learning
  2. identifying significant concerns that may require focused intervention for individual children
  3. helping programs improve their educational and developmental interventions.

Early Childhood Curriculum, Assessment and Program Evaluation, 2003.

About assessments in early childhood

Authentic assessments in early childhood

Young children learn through play; authentic assessment aims to document a child’s development and progress in a way that is non-intrusive and captures how a child uses his or her skills while engaging with materials, teachers, parents and peers. Authentic assessment involves the teacher as an observer and a researcher – working from a background of solid education and specialized training, collecting data over time, selecting and organizing evidence (the portfolio), preparing a hypothesis that can be tested (the curriculum), sharing conclusions with parents and others to refine what will work best in guiding a child to develop to his or her potential, and developing lesson plans that will help students individually progress toward meeting learning expectations.

Teaching Strategies GOLD

Assessment, evaluation, and programming system for infants and children (AEPS)

Screening instruments

Screening involves brief assessments that are valid, reliable, and evidence-based. They may screen broadly for developmental concerns in younger children or may screen for more specific areas (such as literacy). Screenings are conducted with all children  or targeted groups of children to identify children who may be at risk of developmental delays or future academic failure.  These children are  likely to need additional or alternative forms of instruction and/or support  to supplement what is typically found in the natural environment or in the conventional general education setting.

Developmental screeners

There are multiple developmental screeners available for use in early childhood. Physicians’ offices, in home workers (including Early Head Start and Early ACCESS providers), and preschools may use these instruments in order to gather broad information about children who might need either further assessment or assistance.  One of the most commonly used by educators is the “Ages and Stages Questionnaire” (Brookes Publishing Company). The ASQ is a developmental and social-emotional screening for children from one month to 5 ½ years. It is highly reliable and valid, looking at strengths and trouble spots, educating  parents about developmental milestones, and incorporating parents’ expert knowledge about their children. The ASQ works to assess children to determine if further evaluation is required or to monitor the development of children who are at risk. The questionnaires are answered by parents and can be completed in several minutes. Professional involvement is required to score the questionnaire and provide routine feedback to families of children who are not requiring further assessment.

Universal screeners for literacy


The State of Iowa currently supports the use of screening instruments for literacy in early childhood.  The purpose of these instruments is to help identify children who are at risk for not being proficient in reading by the end of third grade.

Some teachers wonder if GOLD can be used as a screening instrument or if the IGDIs can be substituted for the GOLD. In fact, these are two different types of assessment, with very different purposes. GOLD and IGDIs…Unique and Complementary examines the comparison between these two instruments